willie_logan_web.jpgOPA-LOCKA — Discussions to redevelop The Gardens and Nile Gardens communities will take place next week, led by the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation.

The announcement came from the CDC’s founder and chief executive officer, Willie Logan during a visit to the north Miami-Dade city on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the CDC a $300,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant which targets  areas around the country with high incidence of poverty.

The funds “will enable the community to create a comprehensive transformation plan to transform the area into a mixed residency with energy efficient units,” said Marie Head, HUD deputy assistant secretary for multifamily housing, who was on hand for the presentation.

“We want to preserve Section 8 housing, preserve affordable housing,” said Head. “The need is great and this grant will help.”

The grant will help finance the planning stage, Logan said. Combined with past funding, the CDC will spend $1.2 million over the next 18 months. “We will determine how to best redevelop the area,” he said.

Details of the award were announced at a gathering attended by Heard that took place at The Gardens Apartments, 13180 Port Said Road, attended by about 50 residents.

The CDC applied for the grant in partnership with the city, Florida Memorial University, the Urban League of Greater Miami, EJP Consulting Group and Creative Choice Homes. Opa-locka is one of 13 cities nationwide to receive funding.

“I had to make sure some of it got back to Opa-locka,” said Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Florida, who was present for the presentation.

The community will be involved and make decisions regarding the revitalization.

“The planning committee will include the OLCDC and its partners in the grant, as well as an organized group of residents from The Gardens and Nile Gardens,” Logan said. “We will all sit together next week and bring ideas to the table. Nothing has been decided; the committee of residents has not yet been formed. This is all new.”

The Gardens and Nile Gardens areas have been “left behind for too long,” said Edward Jennings, HUD’s Southeast regional administrator. “There are issues with crime, poverty, drugs … that’s all changing. The residents will have the opportunity to decide their own fate, their own destiny. We will plan for the type of housing they want.”

Juanita Becker, a lifelong Opa-locka resident, welcomed the move to involve the community in the planning stage. “If they stick to their word and let us have our say, we’ll have nothing to complain about,” she said.

Becker, 63, described The Gardens as “a huge issue,” adding, “Cleaning it up, building it up will definitely force the criminals out. If police are in the area and work is going on, no one will hang around and make trouble. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Her husband, Howard Becker, 70, said he is praying for the area to become safe for the children.

“You can build and make things pretty but safety must be a part of what the committee brings to the table,” he said.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net

Photo: Willie Logan